Now, I may be biased about the quality of this episode based solely on the fact that it’s not a theme episode. But this week’s episode was a breath of fresh air. Finally, “Glee” goes back to being about the characters and the narrative, and not reliant on gimmicks and tributes to the long list of celebrities that Ryan Murphy admires. The only theme of this episode is the heartbreaking reality of failure. However, comparing the varying degrees of failure does an injustice to the more serious topics covered.
The main storyline deals with Kurt and Rachel’s NYADA auditions. This was handled extremely well by Glee standards. Kurt ends up nailing his audition after correctly assuming that the Judge (played by Whoopi Goldberg) would be bored of the “safe song choice” that Rachel suggested. Instead, Kurt takes a chance on a flamboyant song and nails it. It’s great to see Kurt thinking for himself, and taking his life in his hands. Rachel on the other hand…provided for the saddest and most heartbreaking moment of her character arc. This moment was three seasons in the making, and it was devastating to see everything Rachel worked for crumble in front of her.
With all of the attention on Kurt and Rachel’s audition, the other characters were able to explore the implications of joking about domestic abuse. After seeing Coach Bieste battered and bruised, the “girls of Glee Club” make an offhand remark about how she is getting beat by her new husband. In true “Glee” fashion, this turns into an afterschool special/Glee Club assignment that gets misinterpreted by the kids in a sad rendition of Chicago’s “Cell Block Tango.” This sets Bieste over the edge, and she admits that she actually was hit by her boyfriend, Cooter.
This storyline had so much potential. Dot-Marie Jones is an underused part of “Glee,” and even in this episode, she didn’t appear very much. By the end of the episode, her decision to stay with her wife-beating husband reflected a sad reality for many women. But it was made less poignant by the fact that in the same 40 minutes, we see the guys of Glee Club singing “The Rain in Spain” to help Puck remember facts for his final. The only respite from Puck’s storyline is the fact that he fails his final, despite the Glee Club’s attempts to help him. It’s good that the writers saw that it wouldn’t be realistic for a kid to pass a final by singing tunes from “My Fair Lady.”
And that’s “Glee’s” core problem. It straddles drama and comedy so haphazardly that every heartfelt scene is instantly taken down a notch by the poor attempts at comedy. Puck’s storyline was right out of a cheesy ‘80s sitcom, and paired up with the more heartbreaking storylines of the episode made it more obvious that the comedy wasn’t working.
Chris Saccaro is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.